Meet Berwyn’s Entrepreneurs: Brendan O’Connor of Big Guys Sausage Stand

Welcome to Meet Berwyn’s Entrepreneurs! Berwyn has become a hot spot for urban professionals, entrepreneurs and creatively minded individuals. From musicians to crafters, small business owners to dedicated team members, Berwyn is home to a remarkable group of movers and shakers who keep our community vibrant. This segment give us a chance to get to know what makes our local leaders tick!

Meet Brendan O’Connor, Sausage King at Big Guys Sausage Stand (7021 W Roosevelt Rd)

Hometown: Berwyn, Illinois
Current Residence: Berwyn, Illinois
Brendan’s Bio: Enamored husband of Kelly Diaz and lucky dad of three charming-girls. We live happily in North Berwyn, only a few blocks from my childhood home and little more than a stonesthrow from my restaurant and four older sisters.

I developed my work ethic at age 18 when my oldest daughter was born and circumstance left me a single-dad, until I married at 29.  Assuming responsibility of another living-being when I was so young motivated me to treat work seriously while earning my degree at Columbia. This prepped me to better handle the heavy workload required of any new small business owner hoping to succeed. In balance with work, I like to split my time enjoying my family in Wisconsin, dining out and imbibing at local “dives.”

At 26, I moved and invested all that I had into a 1926 Berwyn 3-flat. I found myself attracted to the abundant and beautiful bungalows of Berwyn and still hold a growing appreciation for its architecture and history. Now as a land-owner for three buildings in town, what started as fixing up an investment over time has become a passion in restoration.

The Business Side: Known more for my love of food, I turned passion into profit working alongside Paul Obis, co-founding Wright Lloyd Franks—a pop-up stand along a tour where we sold lots of wieners and raw charm…and where we first “got that itch.” It’s an itch we’re still scratching together, as we plan our 6th Sausage Fest, which if you don’t know, is Our Always Free, Family-Fun-Filled Music and Culinary-Showcase Festival. (Learn more about this year’s fest here).

When it was just an idea, the aim was to form Big Guys into a fixture of the neighborhood. I believe we have done that on the premise that for us, customer service amounts to friendship. It helps that most of our staff has been here since the beginning. Without them we wouldn’t succeed. Our dedication to service and creating good food from fresh wholesome ingredients has allowed us to succeed. We don’t offer a large menu, but strive to make the items we do sell as good as they can be. In recent years, we have also expanded to include a successful catering operation. This summer we have catered many beautiful weddings with custom spreads. So, feel free to stop by for the best homemade sausages, burgers and fries around!

Describe yourself using 3 words and explain why you chose those words.
Lighthearted:
I like to find the humor in all things.
Optimistic: You have to be as a business owner, otherwise you’ll just give up.
Open-minded: I like to see all sides in any situation, whether in life or in business.

What inspires you?
The working class, my staff. The people who get up every day to do their part.

Tell us something that people might not know about you.
I am writing an anthology of poems for children. You’ll just have to wait to see what it’s all about!

Which time period would you visit in history?
I’d like to have a night on the town during the prohibition era. Seems like a great time in history for letting loose and hearing live jazz and big bands. Life back then was a production; since then society has become a lot more casual and tame. I also think it would be incredible to witness our town and the city first hand at a time when a lot of what we have now was built.

What are you most passionate about?
Designing large, elaborate food presentations for special events and weddings. For me, special events are exciting. Our food makes grooms cry. Right now, with the restaurant running well and with a good staff, these events have been my focus and my passion.

This summer I had the opportunity to do a Backyard Italian Wedding Feast. It was at a beautiful Oak Park home (a better description could be manor). The couple wanted to dance the line of elegant and casual. They had no specific requests beyond Italian flavors and that it still had some backyard feel.

The menu we served was showcased by a Roman Style Porchetta, which consisted of a boneless whole-hog rubbed with citrus, fennel, garlic and fresh herbs, then stuffed with sausage and more pork, and finally sewed shut  for 12 hours in our pig roaster. We displayed the pig under a gazebo on top of a hot tub that we transformed into a 100 square foot cornucopia. We adorned the display with flowers, and laid the food out on 6’ live-edge-slabs of walnut wood, antique butcher blocks and vintage-vegetable crates. We displayed the pig up high on risers and the Porchetta stayed hot for hours while we sliced smaller pieces. We sliced the fresh meat for guests to make sandwiches with ciabatta rolls, garlic mayo, arugula and fire-roasted tomatoes. We also presented a decorative antipasto table, an arugula watermelon salad, and heirloom tomato pasta salad. Just like the pork, we constantly refreshed grilled corn, grilled shrimp scampi, roasted potatoes and dates wrapped in bacon fresh off the grill throughout the night. Hungry yet?

If someone made a movie of your life, would it be a drama, a comedy, a romantic-comedy, action film, or science fiction?
Probably a comedy. I hope the story of Big Guys ends up as a David & Goliath come from behind tale, but it would definitely be presented as a dark comedy filled with slap-stick humor. Embedded along our stretch of 12th street, we have a whole cast of characters that make up our aura in addition to us flawed-heroes who work here. Roosevelt Road could be the most interesting place in the world, I’ve thought about writing a series of short stories about its characters, think Nelson Algren 2017.

We know you’re hungry after reading this. Indulge yourself in a sausage extravaganza at this years Big Guy’s Sausage Fest on Saturday, August 12 from noon until 11pm! There will be delicious good galore, music for jamming and fun all around. For more information, head over here 🙂

Wondering why you’ve heard the name “Big Guys Sausage Stand” before? Aside from stellar eats, they’re in the final round of Chicagoist’s search for best burger joint. Give ’em a vote—a vote for Big Guys is a vote for Berwyn! Vote here (**iPhone users may need to copy the link into a browser**).

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